Ulpan…here we go again

My ulpan text book

Last week I started ulpan again. Another 500 hours of Hebrew lessons crammed into the next five months. 

I was a bit worried about it. The last time I went, approximately three years ago, wasn’t exactly a huge success. I had a horrible teacher who shouted at me and made me feel like a kid in school. Although I managed to complete the course and even get a diploma (I have the certificate to prove it), I could barely speak a word of Hebrew by the end of it, as is still the case. 

I told myself that it would be different this time as I’d been living in Israel for over 3 years and Hebrew at least sounded familiar, even though I barely understood a word. 

As I entered the building, I felt slightly more confident than I had done the first time round. I walked purposefully to my new classroom and plumped for a seat at the back (must be able to check phone at all times…I still kid myself that it’s so the kids can always get hold of me, when really it’s so I can check Facebook). The exact position of the seat is very important. There’s an unwritten rule there, that the seat you start in, stays yours for the duration of the course. With that in mind, I chose carefully.  It had to be on the same side as the door, for ease of access in the event of my not infrequent trips to the loo (women of a certain age will understand).

Another equally important factor when choosing the optimum seating position is the air conditioning unit. My grandmother always warned me about sitting in a draft as she said it could bring on neuralgia, which is why I’m always careful not to sit directly underneath one.

I then went through the process of trying out the different chairs until I found the most ‘comfortable’ one. As they’re all made of hard plastic, I settled for one which I thought would give me the best chance of still being able to feel my bottom by the end of the morning.  I carefully moved it into place. 

Once I’d settled into my chosen seat, I watched as all the new faces started to appear. Those who arrived late didn’t have the luxury of being able to carefully select a seat. They simply had to make do with the few remaining seats on offer. I felt sorry for them. 

The first hour passed uneventfully, after which time it started to get hotter and hotter. It soon became apparent that the A/C unit wasn’t working. Various workmen came in to look at it; and look at it was all they seemed to do, apart from press a few buttons on the remote control. There was talk of possibility having to move to a different room. The very idea filled me with dread, as I contemplated the idea of having to go through the whole seat choosing conundrum again. It didn’t bear thinking about. I took my mind off it by trying to concentrate on the lesson. 

I decided to go for a walk in the break in order to clear my head in readiness for the possible impending disaster. Before doing so however, I spread my books across the desk and hung my coat over the back of the chair to make it plain to all that,  THIS SEAT IS OCCUPIED. Well, it wasn’t worth taking any chances now, was it?

After the break my worst fears were realised. It had been decided that we’d have to move rooms as ours was slowly turning into a sauna. At that moment, I knew what I had to do. As soon as I heard the words Room 10, 3rd floor, I gathered my stuff, sprinted out the door and headed for the stairs. The others followed, assuming that I knew where I was going. As it happens, I had no idea where Room 10 was and I ended up on the wrong floor. As I turned to go back downstairs, I saw about 30 faces looking quizzically at me. I muttered something under my breath about wrong floor, put my head down and once again headed for the stairs as the others followed. 

I watched in horror as those who’d not been foolish enough to follow me filed into the room ahead of me. What if my preferred seat had been taken by the time I got in there?

I felt like I’d won the lottery when I was able to recreate the exact same seating arrangement from earlier, to the last minute detail. 

My euphoria was short lived. The next morning, I arrived early once again and made my way to Room 10 where I took my self-allocated seat. A few others joined me, although by 8.30 when the class was due to start only a handful of people had turned up. It soon became apparent that I was in the wrong room. The A/C unit in our original room had been fixed and our class was in there. It took all of my strength not to give up there and then and just go home!

About the Author
I’m a British lawyer from Manchester. I made aliyah in 2016 and now live in Netanya with my husband, 3 children and 3 dogs. As I wasn’t able to pursue my legal career here in Israel, I started a small business editing English language papers for academics. I also write short stories or ‘blogs’ about the trials and tribulations of my new life.
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